Thursday, May 20, 2010

Sword for Hire, Part 1

This is the second in a series of solo adventures with Phineas the Red. This adventure is the classic, "Sword for Hire," by James Wilson. This is solo #11 in the series published by Flying Buffalo and features Six Pack the rock demon. I happen to own a decent copy of the first printing from 1979. Bear in mind that this post does include information that may spoil the adventure if you have not played it yet so be advised.


Phineas is told of a powerful wizard named Mongo the Dark who is looking for a mercenary to complete a simple task. The bartender tells him that Mongo always pays well, but the last few warriors that answered his call have not been seen again. With his belt pouch painfully free of gold, Phineas decides to see what this wizard has to offer. He strikes off through the dark forest on the outskirts of town and eventually comes to a dark and forbidding tower. Phineas walks around the base of the tower but does not find a door. There is only a brass gong next to a hitching post. Phineas considers striking the gong, but then notices a number of bleached bones lying on the ground beneath it. Could be a trap, he thinks to himself and he calls out Mongo's name instead. Before Phineas has even finished speaking a section of the tower slides open and a tall, green-robed figure steps out. He looks Phineas over with a careful eye.

"I suppose you will do," he says finally. "I am Mongo. Please come inside. I have some tea that will warm you up and we can discuss business."

As Phineas sits in the wizards study drinking his tea, Mongo explains why he needs assistance.

"I have only recently acquired this tower from a red wizard. The former owner was in a hurry to depart and did not provide me with any details about the extensive network of tunnels beneath the tower. Now, I could use my considerable powers to explore the area, but I am far too busy to be bothered by such trivial matters. So instead, I will send you below to make a map for me and to collect any items of value. If you return to me with a map and find another exit, you may keep what you find in exchange for the map. If you cannot find another exit and return to the entrance, I will let you keep half of what you find. To help you complete this task I can offer you this flask of poison that you may apply to your weapons. I can also let you have this magic sword. It will protect you from harm as well as strike down your enemies. If it ever falls from your grasp, simply cry out "Help" and it will leap back into your hand. You may keep it if you are able to find an exit."

Phineas hold the sword, admiring its beauty, then covers the blade with the poison Mongo provided.

"I agree to your terms Mongo," Phineas says finally. "Where is the entrance to these tunnels?"

Mongo leads Phineas to an iron bound door. He speaks an ancient word and the door opens revealing a staircase leading down. Phineas raises his lantern and takes a few steps down the stairs. Suddenly, Phineas jumps as the door slams shut behind him with a loud BANG. He then hears the lock snapping shut.

"Wizards," Phineas mutters.

The stairs eventually end at a small wooden door. Phineas opens the door and enters a torch-lit room. In the center of the room is a short, but mean-looking rock demon. He is leaning against a small, rune-covered oak keg.

"Are you one of Mongo's servants?" Phineas asks the rock demon cautiously. "I'm trying to find a way out of here."

"Mongo? Who is Mongo?" the rock demon asks then hiccups. "My name is Six Pack. I'm a bit lost myself. Maybe we can look for a way out together? If there is a wizard back the way you came, I won't go that way. He might take away my keg. You see, its magic. This keg never goes dry." Six Pack pats teh keg affectionately, then even gives it a hug.

"Sure," Phineas says hesitantly. "Why not. Who knows what's down here. We'll split any treasure we find 50/50. Agreed?"

Six Pack shakes Phineas' hand, takes a drink from his keg, and then offers Phineas one as well.

"We now have a magically binding contract. If one of us dies down here, the other one will die as well."

Six Pack tucks his keg under his arm and opens the door at the north end of the room. It opens to reveal a torch-lit room with four doors. Six Pack sniffs at the western and eastern doors then tells Phineas that he'd like to try both. Phineas shrugs, opens the eastern door and walks into a corridor with glowing walls. The corridor ends at another door. As soon as Phineas and Six Pack enter he room the door slams shut and locks behind them. Phineas groans and Six Pack gives him a dirty look. Looking around they see that there is a large red button on the eastern wall. Written beneath the button are the words "PUSH ME."

"I'm not so sure about that," Phineas says to Six Pack. "Don't go near that button. Let's see if there is a secret door somewhere."

As the two search for a concealed exit, Six Pack manages to scrape away some dirt from the northern wall revealing a set of runes that read, "PUSH BUTTON, THEN TRY DOOR."

After searching a bit longer for a secret door, Phineas sighs and walks over to the button.

"Well, here we go," he says and pushes the button.

"Let's not be too hasty," Six Pack warns but it is too late.

As the button is depressed there is a loud grinding noise and the north and south walls start to slide together. Six Pack starts to jump up and down screaming "I told you so!" over and over again. Phineas remains calm, however, and rushes over to the door. As he turns the knob, the walls stop moving and rumble back into place. Then a small section opens in the door revealing a hidden alcove. Inside is a ruby amulet hanging between two buttons. An inscription under the amulet state that when the ruby is pressed against ones heart, it would heal all of a persons wounds three times. Phineas smiles as he takes the amulet, showing it briefly to Six Pack.

That's very pretty. But what button do we press now?" he ask impatiently.

"How about the right one," Phineas says while pressing the right button and chuckling at his own rapier wit.

The wall to the north suddenly opens revealing stairs that lead down. Phineas and Six Pack peer down the stars and see a dimly lit room.

"Oh, after you," Six Pack says quickly. "It was your button after all."

Phineas grumbles something to himself, then walks down the stairs with weapons ready. The stairs end at a junction. Another set of stairs lead upward to the west and a door stands in the eastern wall. As they enter the room, the light from Phineas' lantern disturbs a swarm of eight blood bats. They swoop down from their perches in the ceiling and attack. The sudden onslaught of the bats catches the two companions off guard at first and they swing their swords at the empty air while one of the bats manages to rake its claws across Six Pack's arm. With their enemy clearly identified, however, both Phineas and Six Pack manage to cut a bat out of the air. This is quickly followed by two more and then the rest lie scattered about the room. Phineas and Six Pack manage to escape with only a few small cuts.

"Nasty beasts," Six Pack says and then spits on one of the quivering bats.

As Six Pack continues to desecrate the carcasses of the bats, Phineas pours another does of poison onto the blade of his sword then considers where to go next. He finally decides on the stairs and makes his way to the west. As he climbs the stairs he sees that they end at a concealed door. He opens the door and enters a dark north-south tunnel. Phineas looks to the south and scratches his chin.

"I wonder if that way leads back to where we came from?"

Without waiting for an answer from Six Pack, Phineas walks to the south and comes to a door. He opens it and enters the room with four doors where they had previously been. Phineas stops to scribble some new lines on his map.

"What is that for?" Six Pack ask looking at the paper.

"The wizard wants a map. No map, no money." Phineas answers.

"Then stop jabbering and draw," say Six Pack impatiently. "Look, that line should be straighter."

Phineas puts the map away and walks up to the western door. He puts his ear to it, but hears nothing. Phineas carefully opens the door revealing a pitch black room. Raising his lantern and shining it about the room, Phineas cautiously steps forward with Six Pack close behind. As soon as they are both inside the door slams shut behind them.

"Not again," whines Six Pack.

They find themselves in a large, circular room with a domed ceiling. Standing in the center of the room is an 8-foot tall snowy white ape-beast with a matted hairy hide and massive fists. It paws the ground and grunts before charging with a low growl. Six Pack, standing behind Phineas, suddenly lets out a scream of rage and charges the beast. As if in slow motion, the rock demon stumbles on a small rock, does a double back flip, lands on his head, and then passes out cold. The ape-beast ignore the unconscious demon and charges straight toward Phineas.

Phineas stands his ground and meets the charge. The ape-beast swings its massive fists pummeling Phineas and forcing him to fall back. Despite his armor, the beast manages to knock the wind out of him. The fight continues and Phineas finally gains the upper hand and is able to knick the ape beast with his poisoned sword but he does not escape unharmed. As his blood starts to run freely onto the dusty floor, Phineas starts to panic. Just then, Six Pack wakes up and lifts himself shakily from the ground. He sees that Phineas is in trouble and charges the beast from behind. The rock demon jumps onto the ape-beasts back and plunges his sword into its neck. The beast howls in pain and lowers its guard for a split second. But that is all the time Phineas needs to plunge his poisoned blade into the monster's heart. With a strained gurgle, the giant ape-beast collapses to the floor..

"Thanks," Phineas says to Six Pack who is stumbling about the room holding his head. "You came to just in time."

Looking around, Phineas notices a wooden chest by the wall on the far end of the chamber.

"Let's see if the reward was worth the pain." Phineas walks over to the chest and opens the dusty lid. Inside the chest he finds a small pouch containing 160 silver coins. There is also a well-made cloak at the bottom of the chest that he picks up to examine more closely.

"That's nice," Six Pack says as Phineas studies the cloak. "If you wear that cloak and stand still, you will blend into your surroundings and basically be invisible. The only problem is that it's made by elves. It probably stinks of them." Six Pack sniffs the cloak and makes a face. "Yep, just as I thought. Elves. You're welcome to it."

Phineas smells the cloak himself but notices nothing. He puts on the cloak and stuffs the pouch of silver into his backpack.

"Where to now?" Six Pack asks.

"Back to the north I suppose," Phineas answers and heads through the door. After a few minutes they are back in the dark north-south tunnel where they came through the secret door. Phineas and Six Pack continue to the north until the tunnel ends at another that leads to the east and west. Suddenly, Six Pack hisses a warning.

"Put out that light and hide." He leaps against the wall and vanishes from sight.

Phineas immediately extinguishes his lantern and flattens himself against the tunnel wall, trusting that the cloak will serve as the rock demon promised. He holds his breath and waits for whatever was horrible enough to frighten a rock demon.

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